Friends, this has been one of the most powerful seasons of Advent my family and I have ever experienced. Never before have we so intentionally participated, physically and spiritually, in what this season calls for, namely, expecting and preparing for the coming of Christ. I know that lots of people in our church have been deeply engaged, as well, and I hope many readers of this blog have done the same, reforming worship in your own homes and communities.
In all of my contemplation this Advent season, I have come to the conclusion that the number one reason why people don’t enjoy Christmas to the fullest is because they go after the feelings of joy instead of the Bringer of joy. Inevitably, the joy they experience is far inferior and short-lived. Let's finish this Advent season strong by centering our lives on our Savior. If we seek Him first, then everything we experience this Christmas - time spent with family, memories relived, sights and smells, exchanging of gifts - will bring glory to God and lasting peace to us. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
A Few Items (as this may be our last post of 2009)
First, for those of you who know me well, you might find it funny that I led "Mighty to Save" (just the chorus) yesterday in our Sunday worship. As I mentioned a couple posts ago, this is an excellent song for Advent, yet I have never led it for a few reasons: 1) it is way too popular (not a good reason), 2) I think singing "He rose and conquered the grave" is redundant (although I love the resurrection language), and 3) I don't "give myself to follow everything I believe in," because I believe in all kinds of crap, as evidenced by my persistent sinful choices (granted, I know the writers are referring to following Jesus). However, as is usually the case with very good melodies, and which is probably the reason for this song's success, our people connected and responded with an enormous expression of praise. So I am no longer "opposed" to leading this song, but I will change a couple things if/when I ever lead the whole song: 1) I will sing "He died and conquered the grave," to more overtly proclaim the atonement for sin accomplished in the death of Christ, and 2) I will change the line in the second verse to "I give myself to follow, the One that I believe in," or "the Gospel I believe in," which is a truer desire to declare. (Insert smiley face.)
Secondly, last night I watched the 2006 movie The Nativity Story. This was the first time I saw the movie, and I was overcome with emotion the entire time. In fact, there were a few moments (e.g., when Elizabeth greets Mary) that the Holy Spirit leapt within my own soul. I particularly appreciated the raw humanity of Mary and Joseph depicted in honest scenes of fear, doubt, and other personal struggles. I have read reviews from obstinate Catholics who say the film is unfaithful to traditional Mariology. That is an accurate observation, and I, too, might be offended if Catholic Mariology were biblical. But much of it is not, and I thought the writer and director did a phenomenal job portraying a truer representation of the Christ-event, birth pangs and all. Also, the comic relief provided in the wisemen was perfect. I laughed audibly a number of times. But the most compelling moment of all was the foreshadowing of Christ's crucifixion in the sight of Mary. My goodness, was that powerful! I highly recommend taking in this movie as a family this season. Perhaps Christmas Eve will be a perfect time for this.
Third, here is my Advent interview with Dan Wilt of WorshipTraining.com. You worship leaders should also check out Dan's Global Call to Worship Development. I am excited to be a part of this movement toward an ancient future of worship.
Finally, and I tell you this to put a fire under our behinds, we have been working on a new look for Reform worship. I am declaring it our goal to launch the new site at the New Year. Our good friend Josh Weaver has been working hard on the improvements. Josh will also be joining us as a contributor at the time of the switchover. We're very much looking forward to that.
Alright, then, you all have a wonderful Holiday season. Don't forget to celebrate Christmas for twelve days. Hopefully, that will come naturally to you, since you have been observing Advent properly. Peace on earth!